Debate to what extent psychology meets the criterion for a science?

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It is common knowledge that psychology involves the scientific study of human mental processes, motivations and behaviours (Heffernan., 2015); however, just a few people understand the scope of modern psychology or even understand what psychologists do. There is also more awareness of the roles that psychologists have in a clinical, mental, school or even workplace settings, contrasting with psychologists as laboratory scientists. In fact, modern psychology became entirely different from its humble beginnings in Wundt's lab in 1879, where a scientific approach to the study of the human mind and behaviour was taken for the first time. Consequently, establishing psychology as a science separate and distinct from the fields of philosophy and biology (Benjamin, 2000). When people think about psychology, they partly think about Freud’s psychoanalysis, and therefore, understandably argue that it is not a science since it does not follow the scientific method. Even to the eyes of people that work in the ‘harder’ sciences, it is perhaps hard to understand the scientific aspects of psychology. Accordingly, this essay aims to assess to what extent does psychology meets the criterion for science.

  In order to tackle this issue, we must start by defining science; very broadly speaking science consists of systematically observing natural events, developing laws and principles, which later on are tested according to the scientific method. This method consists of observing, for instance, phenomena, constructing a hypothesis accordingly; creating an experiment in order to test the hypothesis; analysing the data and consequently reaching a conclusion(Gauch, 2012). It is vital to understand that these are basic guidelines and can change according to the different fields of science, which can operate differently one from another.  However, just like any science psychology involves and requires a scientific methodology for its investigation. Psychological research involves similar steps, starting with the identification of a problem from old research or perhaps observations; develop hypothesis related to the problem; design a study; and analyse and evaluate the results (Coolican, 2014). Therefore, psychology relies on the scientific approach to analyse its finds, just like any other science and aims to be as objective as possible, to be falsifiable and the findings replicable.

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 Karl Popper believed that what makes something scientific is not what is true but what in principle can be falsifiable (Popper, 2005), as an example instead of claiming that all swans are white because it is all you have seen. Popper believes that we should go out of the way to find evidence to refute a theory, so in this example, we should go out and look for black swans, only when failing to do so, the hypothesis can be confirmed and consequently considered scientific. Popper used Einstein's theory of gravitation as a great example of a theory that ...

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